Friday, 26 August 2011

Edinburgh Fringe Reviews 2011 - Theatre Uncut / Maybe If You Choreograph Me, You Will Feel Better / Untitled Love Story

Theatre Uncut – Traverse Theatre – 4 stars
Maybe If You Choreograph Me, You Will Feel Better – Forest Fringe – 4
Untitled Love Story – St George's West – 4 stars

If the recent spate of rioting on Britain's streets were a response in
part to the alliance government's ongoing public spending cuts in a
society that's been told for the last thirty years that greed is good,
then Theatre Uncut now looks like prophecy. First presented across the
world on March 19th this year, this series of eight plays by major
writers in response was protest theatre at its most intelligent.

Presented this week at the Traverse as a rough and ready script in hand
performed reading in a loose-knit production by Traverse artist in
residence Stewart Laing and one of the project's instigators, Hannah
Price, the plays range from absurdity to anger, taking advantage of the
short form in much the same way the likes of the post 1968 generation
of political writers used to pen agit-prop sketches to be performed on
the back of a van at demonstrations.

Laura Lomas' Open Heart Surgery is a quietly metaphorical state of the
nation piece that rips into a nation already on the slab. Things That
Make No Sense finds Dennis Kelly setting up a Kafkaesque police
interrogation which aims to meet the force's quota whatever the cost.
Anders Lustgarten's The Fat Man is the collection''s most polemical
call to arms, while Mark Ravenhill's A Bigger Banner looks back in hope
as well as anger at how the future never quite worked out as it was
supposed to.

Jack Thorne's Whiff Whaff and Lucy Kirkwood's Housekeeping are
similarly touching in their evocations of everyday dissent, while Clare
Brennan's Hi-Vis is a beautiful monologue about a mother unable to cope
with her disabled daughter. Finally, David Greig's Fragile ingeniously
conspires with the audience, who get to play the second part in a
two-hander about one young man's last stand. By having the audience
mouth an unequivocal call to arms, some kind of collective strength is
discovered that goes way beyond the nonsense of David Cameron's big

There's dissent too in Maybe If You Choreograph Me, You Will Feel
Better, a men only experiential piece created and performed by Tania El
Khoury at the Forest Fringe. It would be quite wrong to give too much
away here in terms of what you're asked to do once you're taken
off-site, except that it involves power, manipulation and the
demonisation of women in a system so scared of them that abuse is the
only answer. It deals obliquely too with notions of the male gaze as
the sole audience member speaks his instructions to the performer into
a dictaphone before the object of his – what? Affections? - walks off
into the distance, never to be seen again. It's a thought-provoking
half-hour which has deep political resonances, and says much about who
may or may not hold the balance of power.

David Leddy's Untitled Love Story, on the other hand, is a deeply holy
piece of work that puts four people in Venice at different points in
history going through crucial, life-changing experiences which may or
may not define them. A catholic priest is accused of heresy after
finding more holistic means of expression. A historian can't sleep at
night. An art collector sashays through her affairs with a brittle
sense of self-importance. A writer takes flight after being ditched by
her fiancé.

Love, sex, religion and art all provide some kind of salvation in a
meditative and elliptical slow burn which at times recalls Terry
Johnson's play, Insignificance. This is clearly present in Morag Stark
art collector, who is modelled on Peggy Guggenheim and references her
amours with Samuel Beckett.

Leddy's own production for his fire exit company is a tender series of
criss-crossing monologues in which all finally come to rest in a
rain-soaked Venice where they at last find some peace as all their
apparent sins are washed away. It's a technically intricate piece of
work, but actors Morag Stark, Adura Onashile, Keith Fleming and Robin
Laing rise to the challenge of never fully interacting with a sense of
pronounce calm that only ever comes after a storm in a deliciously
languid piece of work.

Theatre Uncut, run ended. Maybe If You Choreograph Me, You Will Feel
Better until August 26. Untitled Love Story until August 29.

The Herald, August 24th 2011


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